Sunday, August 1, 2010

Advanced Dialogue Stuff :-)

I am telling you, dialogue is the downfall of even the biggest NYT sellers.

Seriously, read the stuff out loud. Yikes! Then start going down mid-list and below and it can become downright painful.

Why? Because most of the time authors subconsciously use dialogue to their own purpose.

I need my Hero to say that he used to live in New York. Now, unless you are sitting around a new work or on a date, you not going to casually mention that you used to live in New York.

It is going to come up as part of a conversation:

"Wow, I really love this pizza." "Oh no, clearly you have never been to New York then because this crust is way too thick."

Ok, that was lame too, but at least it made sense that New York came up as a topic.

A better way to hide this important plot item would be in what your Hero DOESN'T say. Everyone else is reminiscing about New York and your Hero stays quiet. Someone, of course, notices this and probe into the subject.

Anything you can do to not blatantly state "Hey, I lived in New York" is best.

Another way to make your dialogue crackle is to have the two people in the conversation in conflict. Whether it is an all out fight or simply them arguing over where they are going to dinner, is up to you.

Also 'dragging' the info out of someone is better than blurting it out. Have your Hero duck, dive, and dodge the subject.

How important the information is to the plot, the harder it should be to get out of him.

Now my favorite way (no surprise here) is to relay critical information during a car chase or defusing a bomb, or some other incredibly awkward time to have a 'chat.'

Why do I love this technique so much? Well, besides the fact I get to write action?

I like this because it automatically fragments the conversation. Even my instinct is to have a conversation flow in a logical manner to a neat resolve.

But if the bullets are flying? If they are running for their lives? Having to whisper since the bad guy is approaching.

It forces me as an author to figure out what is truly pertinent. It forces me to find unique, interesting ways to put the information out there.

Plus it makes sense to cut off dialogue before it wanders into cliche-land if you've got ricochets to worry about.

Let's say you aren't writing a piece with physical action. That doesn't mean you can't use external circumstances to 'goose' your dialogue along.

Children, pets, crowds, mother-in-laws, meddling neighbors can all act as a 'distraction' away from a straight forward conversation.

Whenever you are up against having to use dialogue to impart vital information think, "What is the most dynamic way to say this?"

What makes this conversation interesting... besides the words coming out of my Hero's mouth?

Alright, that's it for this week.

Your assignment? Find an important plot point that is revealed in dialogue that you aren't happy with.

Experiment with one of the techniques listed above to 'freshen' it up!

And if you would like to see a real life example of my dialogue, hop on over to:
Plain Jane and either read the first 50 pages for free or use this 50% off coupon code: RH88E

Then leave a comment below on what you thought :-)


  1. I don't want to think I have an issue with dialogue, but I'll definitely be experimenting with your method. Thanks!

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  3. I am going to give your method a shot. That is after I have some pizza.

  4. What timing for this article. The scene I'm getting ready to write is threatening to become 80% dialogue and I keep giving it the evil eye every time I walk by (instead of, you know. Writing it).
    Good points here, I think I might have a better grasp on it, now.
    Thank you!

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